Age-Based Hostile Work Environment Claims Dismissed Against NYC Dept. of Education

In  DeLaRosa v. New York City Department of Education et al, 21-CV-4051 (JPO), 2022 WL 2752589 (S.D.N.Y. July 14, 2022), the court, inter alia, dismissed plaintiff’s claim(s) of hostile work environment under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law. (The court did, however, deny defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiff’s disparate treatment and retaliation claims.)

From the decision:

Plaintiff has not stated a hostile work environment claim under the ADEA, NYSHRL, and the NYHCRL. To establish a hostile work environment claim under the ADEA, a plaintiff must show that the “workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment.” Kassner, 496 F.3d at 240. At the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff “must plead facts that would tend to show that the complained of conduct: (1) “is objectively severe or pervasive — that is, … creates an environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive”; (2) creates an environment “that the plaintiff subjectively perceives as hostile or abusive”; and (3) “creates such an environment because of the plaintiff’s [protected class].” Patane v. Clark, 508 F.3d 106, 103 (2d Cir. 2007) (quoting Gregory v. Daly, 243 F.3d 687, 691–92 (2d Cir. 2001)). Courts consider “(1) the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; (2) its severity; (3) whether it is threatening and humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and (4) whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance.” Id.

Taken separately or together, the allegations in the amended complaint do not state a hostile work environment claim. The alleged comments from Principal Delarosa, though contentious, do not reflect intimidation, ridicule, or insult relating to a protected characteristic. See, e.g., Siclari v. New York City Dep’t of Educ., No. 19-CV-7611, 2020 WL 7028870, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 30, 2020); Ardigo v. J. Christopher Capital, LLC, No. 12-CV-3627, 2013 WL 1195117, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 25, 2013). Even if such comments were age-related, the amended complaint does not allege that the comments “drew a direct link” between any discriminatory stereotypes and an adverse employment decision. Lively v. WAFRA Inv. Advisory Grp., Inc., 6 F.4th 293, 306 (2d Cir. 2021). Nor does the alleged isolation establish the kind of severity that characterizes a plausible hostile work environment claim.

Based on this, the court dismissed plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim.

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